NFL

Sources Confirm That Steelers Are ‘America’s Team’ Not the Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys are one of the most polarizing NFL teams. They have a large fanbase located all over the country, but there are also many vocal opponents who don’t like the team. Even the Cowboys’ nickname is controversial: America’s Team.

The team has been called this for decades, but not everyone thinks it fits the Cowboys. Should the team still have that nickname, or are there other teams more deserving of the moniker? Here’s a look at the history of the ‘America’s Team’ nickname and speculation about another team that may be more deserving of it.

The history behind the ‘America’s Team’ nickname

In recent years, Dave Wannstedt has discussed when he interviewed for the Steelers’ head coaching vacancy in the ’90s. He recalls talking to team owner Dan Rooney about the Cowboys and calling them America’s Team.

“Stop right there,” Wannstedt recalls Rooney saying as he told him the history of the nickname. According to Rooney, after the Steelers beat the Cowboys in Super Bowl X, then-commissioner Pete Rozelle called his dad Art Rooney and said the NFL was making a highlight tape and wanted to call the Steelers “America’s Team.”

The elder Rooney turned him down, telling the commissioner, “We are not America’s Team. We are the Pittsburgh Steelers.”

How the Cowboys became America’s Team

The Cowboys’ use of the nickname is said to date back to a 1978 highlight film of the team’s seasons. The film, narrated by John Facenda, begins with the line: “They are the Dallas Cowboys, America’s Team.” Then-NFL film executive Bob Ryan takes credit for the line, saying he wanted a unique way to begin the aforementioned highlight film.

Having noticed that Cowboys fans seemed to travel to stadiums around the league for road games — along with the fact that the team was often featured on national television — Ryan used the phrase in Facenda’s narration.

Former Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm liked the name and ran with it, beginning the decades-long run of marketing that would identify the Cowboys as America’s Team.

Are the Cowboys still America’s Team?

JuJu Smith-Schuster carries Diontae Johnson of the Pittsburgh Steelers on his shoulders after Johnson's touchdown
JuJu Smith-Schuster carries Diontae Johnson of the Pittsburgh Steelers after Johnson’s touchdown | Sarah Stier/Getty Images

This brings us to 2019, a quarter-century removed from the Cowboys’ last Super Bowl title. People wonder if the Cowboys are still America’s Team. The conditions that existed for Ryan to use the term in the first place still exist.

The Cowboys still have a national fan base, with the team’s fans often showing up at opposing stadiums when Dallas is on the road. The team is also still in nationally televised and featured time slots; their games are often among the highest-rated of the season each year.

But people still question the accuracy of the “America’s Team” nickname. Other teams can make strong cases for the nickname. Here are the two with the best arguments for the name:

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers have an NFL-record six Super Bowl championships, tied with the Patriots. They’ve played in Super Bowls in every decade since the ’70s. This is something the Cowboys can’t say.

Like the Cowboys, Steelers fans travel well to their road games, with Terrible Towels in tow, and the team plays in many featured TV slots. But, unlike the Cowboys, they may not get as many national games, especially when the team is struggling.

Green Bay Packers

The Packers are the smallest market team in the NFL, but they also have a big fan base often seen supporting the team on the road. The Packers also get a lot of featured games on TV.

Green Bay has had much success in their history, with four Super Bowl titles in five appearances, and a number of NFL championships in the pre-Super Bowl era.